KJ Video

Joe Leonard, Patrice Wallace and Brian Fitzgerald performing at Gault School for the El Sistema program. photo: r.r. jones

Artists in the Schools is an educational program designed to bring professional jazz artists into Santa Cruz County schools in an effort to support and enrich local music programs. Throughout Santa Cruz County, school music programs have either faced cutbacks or have been eliminated. Kuumbwa Jazz launched the Artists in the Schools program in 2009 with the goal of partially addressing these issues.

We believe that an understanding of jazz and the jazz legacy as an American musical idiom will help students in their broader understanding of school’s core curriculum – history, music, ethno-studies, social-studies, English, and math.

photo: r.r. jones

It is vitally important to assist students in realizing their potential as creative thinkers in any discipline at a young age. Studies show students who are exposed to the rigors of jazz improvisation learn to solve problems as they occur.*

Q: Tell us what you learned about being creative in Jazz music?”

A: “It doesn’t have to be fancy and you always pretend you totally meant to play the way you did…”
~Madison Gotthardt, 8th Grade student at New Brighton Middle School, 2014

Participating schools include:  Gateway School, Gault Elementary, Georgiana Bruce Kirby School, Mission Hill Middle School, New Brighton Middle School, Pacific Collegiate School,  Santa Cruz High School, Scotts Valley Middle School and Shoreline Middle School. 

This program is currently under the guidance of Kuumbwa Jazz Educator in Residence, Dr. Renata Bratt with support from Terrel Eaton, Brian Fitzgerald and Zack Olsen.

Dr. Renata Bratt at Shoreline Middle School

2012-present Dr. Renata Bratt
Cellist and composer/arranger Dr. Renata Bratt, is both an accomplished performer and a nationally recognized, well-respected educator. As an in-demand clinician, Bratt teaches national clinics and string workshops for children and adults, including the American String Teachers Association (ASTA), MENC and Suzuki institutes and conferences, the New Directions Cello Festival, Alasdair Fraser’s camps, the Mark O’Connor String Conference, Wintergrass and the National Cello Institute. Renata has been involved with Kuumbwa for many years, both as a Board Member and as an active member of the Education Committee. In 2014 Renata Bratt accepted and serves as Educator in Residence, an on-going position dedicated to the development and implementation of the Artists in the Schools program.

Saxophonist Paul Contos

2010-2011 Paul Contos
A San Francisco Bay Area native, Paul has been saxophone clinician for the Monterey Jazz Festival Education Program since 1984. He is currently the MJF’s High School Honors Band Director. In addition to his MJF educational duties, Paul is a lecturer of Saxophone at UCSC and is a newly appointed faculty member of the Music and Performing Arts Department at the recently established CSU, Monterey Bay. As a concert performer he has toured Europe and Japan and played with Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughn, Mundell Lowe, Clark Terry, Roy Hargrove, Jon Hendricks, Sheila Jordan, Alex Acuña, Poncho Sánchez, Rebecca Mauleón and others. Paul has received three performance grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as a three-year Artist in-Residence grant from the California Arts Council. As 2010-2011 Artist in Residence, Paul Contos, brought his own unique talent and contributions to the Advanced Band class at Shoreline Middle School.

“Paul is an amazing musician and has really inspired us. Thank you so much!”
  ~Shoreline Student 2011

Murray Low at Shoreline Middle School

2008-2009 Murray Low
Grammy-nominated pianist, Murray Low, is a nationally recognized and highly accomplished and respected artist who has led rhythm sections and performed in a wide array of music styles for ensembles ranging from orchestras and big bands to duos and trios. Murray is a veteran of both Latin and straight-ahead jazz, having stints with Pete Escovedo and John Santos’ Machete Ensemble and currently holds the piano chair in the award winning Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet.

On April 15th, 2009 pianist and Kuumbwa Jazz Artist in Residence, Murray Low, introduced the Artists in the Schools program to Shoreline Middle School located in the Live Oak School District. His work over the course of six weeks with the advanced piano and jazz band students taught by Caleb Murray culminated in the students’ performance at their annual Spring Concert on May 21st, 2009. A rousing ovation was received after the student’s musical performance of Mr. Low’s arrangement of the Afro Cuban tune “Charanga Para Ti”. Mr. Low taught music and music performance reaching over 60 music students in classrooms during the school year.

“Dear Kuumbwa Jazz,
I think what you did was nice and it really helped me with my piano playing. Murray Low is a great piano player. He should come back and help us on other songs and other styles. Charanga Para Ti was a great song to learn and I hope you guys will continue the Artist in the Schools program and maybe get back at shoreline sometimes to promote music playing and for us to keep going with our piano skills. Thanks again!!!”  ~Shoreline Student 2009

*This is Your Brain on Jazz, Johns Hopkins Medicine

photo credit: rr jones